9 signs that you should get tested for type 2 diabetes right away

Posted on 2 November 2020

Type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed for years. Yet if left unnoticed and untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as blindness and kidney failure. Here’s what you need to know so you can act before it’s too late.

Type 2 diabetes (also known as ‘sugar diabetes’) is a common disease that results from having an abnormally high blood glucose level. It’s dangerous and if left untreated, the damage could be irreversible and even fatal. “Every day that goes by with a high sugar level encourages changes and damage to tissue,” cautions Dr Daksha Jivan, an endocrinologist at Mediclinic Morningside and Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg. “So, I’d strongly discourage delaying screening. It’s not just going to go away.”

Early warning signs

Frighteningly, type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed. That’s because individuals tend to ignore early symptoms as nothing serious and don’t bother going to the doctor. “Low-level symptoms could be fatigue – just plain, old tiredness – or it could be that they develop more thirst and as time goes by, start having to wake up at night to pass urine,” says Dr Jivan. “As it becomes more severe, they may start to lose weight.”

What happens if you aren’t diagnosed early enough?

The longer type 2 diabetes goes undiagnosed, the more serious your symptoms will become. “The danger is that patients can go into a hyperglycaemic coma, which can be fatal, and have acute renal failure, which can have a lasting effect,” says Dr Jaco Buys, a GP at Mediclinic Bloemfontein. “The long-term complications are that they can go blind, develop high blood pressure and other systemic complications, as well as gangrene of their limbs.” What’s more, you may not realise it’s happening until it’s too late. “That’s why we’re concerned – because it’s very much a silent killer. Patients can start developing complications of diabetes and not be diagnosed for a long, long time,” adds Dr Jivan.

What can you do to prevent it?

Diagnosing diabetes early is the best way to avoid dangerous complications. “If type 2 diabetes is diagnosed within two years of developing the diabetes, it may be completely reversed just through diet and lifestyle,” says Dr Jivan. You can get tested at your local Mediclinic clinic or ask your GP. “It’s a finger prick. You’ve got the results within 10 seconds and it costs about R15,” says Dr Buys.

9 signs that you should get tested right away

“We’re no longer in hard lockdown, so at this point, I don’t encourage anyone to use the COVID-19 excuse to delay testing,” says Dr Jivan. If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, she recommends you contact your doctor as soon as possible:

  1. Are you overweight or obese?
  2. Are you over the age of 45?
  3. Do you have a close family member (parent, sibling, grandparent) who has diabetes?
  4. Have you previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or polycystic ovarian syndrome?
  5. Have you been feeling unusually and inexplicably tired lately?
  6. Have you been drinking a lot more water than usual?
  7. Do you need to pass urine unusually often, especially at night?
  8. Is your vision blurred?
  9. Have you gained or lost weight?

Published in Diabetes

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.